USA Ultimate announced today changes to the structure of the club division for the upcoming 2012 season. This is another part of the five-year plan laid out by the national governing body, and this latest update highlights five different goals which this restructuring hopes to accomplish. This includes the creation of a more formal regular season leading into the Series, the introduction of divisional play, opportunities to showcase the elite teams, and geographical changes which are followed by changes to the bid process. Up until today, speculation about Canada’s inclusion in the Series dominated outside discussion, but that has now been put to rest.
The geographic regions have been redrawn, and as per usual our neighbors to the north have those awful shades of ‘color’ over them which for now indicate that they’ll be able to compete in the Series. While USA Ultimate says that more changes are coming, it seems unlikely that after this announcement they’d restrict Canadian teams from competing. But that wasn’t the biggest move to come out of the new regions – the fact that there is now 8 regions sending teams to Sarasota is more surprising, two more than past years and new names for others. Gone are the Central and South regions, and in their place come the Great Lakes, North Central, South Central, and Southeast regions. On the west coast the biggest change is in the Northwest region, which dropped the state of California which moved to the Southwest. This means that Sockeye, Furious George and Rhino won’t have to go through the winner of the past two Club Championships, Revolver who will instead compete with the likes of Streetgang and other teams for a bid to regionals.
On the other side of the country, the east coast saw some changes too. The South region has been renamed the Southeast and dropped Texas but added North Carolina. That means that Chain Lightning will no longer have to battle Brodie Smith and Doublewide, but now has to contend with former Mid-Atlantic champion Ring of Fire for the bid to nationals. Texas will now join the new South Central region, pitting them against Johnny Bravo and others up in Colorado before the series. The Central region has been divided too, into the North Central and Great Lakes regions. The North Central no longer contains Machine and Madcow, who have moved to the new Great Lakes region. Thus half of the 2011 national qualifiers have departed, leaving Madison Club and SubZero as the two contenders.
Speaking of bids, the announcement outlined the new way bids would be distributed. Strength bids have changed from taking into account the prior year’s nationals results to performance in the new regular season. Each region will have one automatic bid, with 8 more bids given out to the highest ranked remaining teams. The rankings will be determined by a system to rate regular season results and be built upon strong rostering rules to ensure fairness. That new regular season is going to be held between June 9th and September 2nd, with all events being sanctioned. Also mentioned is the idea of showcase events, of course referring to the U.S. Open Championships (July 5-8), but also two other yet to be announced “existing elite-level club tournaments” during the regular season. Play during this 2012 season will also “dictate their placement into tiered playing opportunities” for the 2013 season, which refers to the idea of divisional events.
Be on the lookout for more information from USA Ultimate on March 15th, which will involve the ultimate community in helping decide between two potential plans for the 2013 season – including more information on those divisional opportunities, promotion, and competitive incentives.